What is a Dyson sphere?

USA (Next Media) – Last week several media outlets covered a research paper speculating, among other possibilities, what debris surrounding a distant star may be.

In the paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of scientists led by Yale postdoctoral fellow Tabetha Boyajian, researchers speculate the debris may be an asteroid belt or comets, the Atlantic reports. However, others believe the debris could be extraterrestrial megastructures.

One popular idea of what the space debris might be is a Dyson Sphere — an energy-absorbing megastructure that envelopes a star, reports the Independent.

According to All About Space, this hypothetical megastructure functions as a power station, absorbing the star’s energy output and eventually energy from the surrounding galaxy, harnessing power from the sun in a similar fashion a solar panel. Another idea is that the structure may be a swarm of thousands of satellites tethered together, collecting energy and sending it to a central location.

This is similar to the notion of space-based solar power (SBSP), where a gigantic spacecraft placed between the earth and the moon would collect energy from the sun and transmit it to earth, reports All About Space.

According to the Independent, Freeman Dyson, the man who popularized the Dyson sphere concept in 1960, has sought to distance himself from the theory. However, that hasn’t stopped the concept from being widely used in science fiction, comics and television.

SOURCES: CNET, Space, All About Space, The Independent, Daily Mail, The Atlantic